Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Happy Places

I am finally out of the funk from Monday, although it really went from Sunday night through Tuesday morning. An eight-and-a-half hour day at school (unpaid, school doesn't start until next week) sure did help to get me out of my funk. I think sometimes the end of summer is tough because while I'm prepping for a new year, I've also had a lot of time to think on our circumstance without a ton of distractions. I think I'm happier when I have less time to think on infertility and adoption. Of course going back in has resulted in a ton of onesie-twosie interactions with people I haven't seen since June, anxious for an update. I can't actually do this, but part of me is like, "MY PRESENCE HERE IS AN UPDATE." That's not fair, because they are only trying to be supportive and cheer us on, but I had so hoped not to be starting this year. And updates can come without me being gone, so I am grateful for that weird blind profile that turned into an inactive case because it means there WAS some kind of movement over the summer. I at least have SOMETHING to report. It's just hard to see the fallen faces or people wondering how we live like this. It's a great question.

So, how we live like this is in three stages -- FUNKYTOWN, TOO BUSY TO THINK TOO MUCH ON IT, and SUPER OPTIMISTIC HAPPY PLACE.

Funkytown is like how Monday was -- everything seems dismal, the dark pit is hiding under a scant layer of dead leaves waiting to swallow me up, and everything seems impossible and never, never, never.

Too Busy To Think Too Much On It is where we lie most of the year (well, Bryce lives here most of the time). When I am teaching and in the middle of the beautiful chaos that is the school year, I have WAAYYYY too much to do to dedicate too much thought to our limbo. It comes up, especially when triggers arise, but generally I am so immersed in other people's lives to really have deep thinking time on my own. Because it's great to be reflective, but deep thinking time and really making connections between all the things that can trigger moments from infertility or adoption angst can put me in that loop that isn't so healthy. It's not healthy to swallow it all down and concentrate outwardly all the time either, but when I'm busy there's a little more balance.

Super Optimistic Happy Place is sort of a rarity lately, but it exists. It's usually when we are being profiled, or we've received some kind of encouraging news. Or it's when we're in the Fuckit mode, and we just go on vacation or do something crazy BECAUSE WE CAN. And "crazy" means going away for a short vacation, or having a fancy dinner with fancy appetizers and fancy wine at 10:00 at night, because NO ONE ELSE LIVES HERE. It's reveling in our just-us existence instead of bemoaning it. It's feeling like adoption could take place any moment. I wish this feeling came more often than it has, but it's important to either note it or find ways to make it happen.

Things that qualify as Happy Places:

The scallop appetizer Bryce made us at 8:30 at night on a summer Saturday when the main course was a deliciously crispy and tender duck breast. That's rose champagne, because I wanted pink champagne. Why not.

Out to dinner at one of our favorite spots that has Sin Bins -- used to be private whoring rooms but now are tiny dining rooms for 2-4 people to enjoy. Then we can be as crass as we want, ha ha.

Beautiful Maine moments. This one from the shore of Wolfe's Neck State Park in Freeport.

Quiet moments in the woods (this is also Wolfe's Neck), just enjoying the awesome beauty of nature.

A stack of great books. These were the ones I bought while on vacation. I have a problem.

My favorite at-home reading space, on my chaise lounge in the backyard.

Finding beautiful reading spots on vacation. (This is a different book, and that swimming hole is full of tadpoles.)

Having my reading buddy around. He's not really helping the reading cause (this one's Amy Schumer's book), but he's so darn cute you can't help but be happy near him. Also, that empty tub of Trader Joe's Fruit Jellies are (were) a happy place.

Apparently my happy places are food, nature, and book-related. I've found them again, and it's good to have them at my disposal. Because sometimes it feels like life just chews you up and spits you out and you somehow miss out on things you thought were a given in life, and so the funky days will always be there. But as long as the happiness-making places and moments are still accessible and effective, it will be okay in the end. No matter what.

Monday, August 29, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Funked Up Day

I have been in a pervasive funk.

Possibly it's related and exasperated by the end of summer (I spent 4/5 days last week in one classroom or the other, and have two parent meetings this week, and just never feel truly ready no matter how much early prep time I put in), but I think I know what it really is.

I am feeling very sorry for myself, and it was kicked off by an IVF emergency suffered by someone I know yesterday. It's been so long since I've been in those shoes, but not really all that long. Her estrogen dropped inexplicably over the weekend, and she needed to have it rechecked Monday, knowing that if it truly had dropped then things were in trouble. I am not close enough friends with this person to feel like I can offer advice in any way (and really, who am I to offer IVF advice when I so completely failed at it?), but there were some things that bothered me, and I don't feel empowered to voice any concerns because I don't really know her all that well and I don't really like the clinic she goes to for a variety of reasons. The nurse told her that they'd never seen anything like that before (I know so many people who had an estrogen crash), then the doctor said that he WILL save this cycle, no matter what! Um, if your estrogen truly crashed, that pretty much trashes your egg quality if you can even get to a retrieval, and I hate when doctors promise things they can't truly deliver on.

Well, it turns out that it must have been an error or a weird thing, because today's bloods revealed normal values. Here is where I feel like a horrible person. I am happy that her cycle wasn't trashed, truly I am. They are tight financially and that would be disastrous for them. But for me, all I could think of was, WHY COULDN'T IT HAVE EVER BEEN AN ERROR FOR ME? Why was every single thing that was questionable a freaking tragedy? How many times did I have my bloods redone to check that the estrogen drop was truly that crazy, or that the HCG drop was truly that crazy, and never ever ever gotten a reprieve, a WHOOPS, those numbers were a mistake?

Never, that's how many times.

And it makes me sad. It makes me sad that the medical part of our journey was so filled with one weird thing after another, one wrong turn after another, until we were forced to be like, NO MAS.

I guess I am wary of doctors that overpromise, even if in times they do make good on fantastic claims. And I feel glad that others don't have my series of unfortunate events, but it would sure be nice if WE could have something come through, somewhere, in this quest to have a child. I feel increasingly stagnant in adoption and like others around me are adopting and having more success with having opportunities, and so I'm just down.

I'm afraid I'm always going to be on the outs in this arena.

I'm afraid of not getting the chance to be a mom. That would turn out okay if that was the case, but I'll have to reframe my whole idea of the next couple decades. I won't get to say "not yet" when prying eyes ask if we have kids, because the answer will just be unequivocally NO, not EVER.

Oh, and after writing this draft, running out of time to finish and heading out to book club (after dropping a favorite crockery bowl and shattering it), someone announced a surprise third pregnancy while I tried to concentrate real hard at the salad dressing label to make sure it was gluten free and I could eat no one could see me trying so hard not to tear up.

Such a funky, funked up day.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

My Sick Sense of Humor Strikes Again

As an infertile woman, doctor's appointments suck. I have decided that from now on I am going to put the date range 2010-2014 and just list the number of egg retrievals, hysteroscopies, laparoscopies, and one very exciting pericentesis (thank you, Ovarian HyperStimulation Syndrome!) under "Surgeries," because it's just easier than listing them singly for each one, and far less depressing to lump them together than to give them the individual attention separate boxes would imply. I hate getting X-rays (as a clumsy woman, this happens more frequent than I'd like) and having to always answer the technician's question "Could you be pregnant?" with "NOT A CHANCE IN THE WORLD." I really, really love it when they ask me, "Are you SURE?"

But today, today I had the experience of an echocardiogram and a holter monitor adhered to my ladies, because I've been having stupid heart palpitations again. I had them a long, long time ago in my early twenties, and then they settled down, and then this past November had them ramping up quite a bit. I went to the regular doctor, had a bunch of bloodwork done, had all the symptoms of a thyroid issue, but bloodwork didn't support it. (In a weird way I was sort of hoping that was it and that that could be a sneaky reason why our last cycles didn't work at all, and why I am on the flubbier side, but nope. All the thyroid testing at the clinics we went to wasn't wrong, it definitely wasn't my thyroid. I get to blame my flubbiness on PCOS and love of good food only, sigh. Please note in no way am I wishing for a thyroid disorder here or diminishing those who have one.) Bloodwork did say I was borderline low for B12 and low for Vitamin D, so I started taking B12 lozenges that dissolve in your mouth, hopefully making absorption easier for this celiac dame, and became more diligent about the 2000 daily IUs of Vitamin D (not lozenge, maybe that's why it was still low?).

And for a while, the fluttering seemed to calm itself down. But about two weeks ago, I once again had the bird in my chest, or the more disconcerting feeling of a sudden vacuum, like someone is doing chest compressions that you definitely don't need and stealing beats from you.

It's probably nothing more than anxiety and possibly caffeine. I will cry if I need to quit the coffee altogether. It's just so necessary when you have to be on at 7:40 am and sometimes have parent meetings at 7:15 (which is cruel, by the way). What do I have to be anxious about? Oh, just school starting back up and the adoption process and saying goodbye to our embryos and stuff, no biggie. But, heart disease runs in my family and with an uncle who had a heart attack in his 40s and me recently entering my 40s, it's probably not a bad idea to make sure it's nothing more nefarious.

Here's where my sick sense of humor kicks in...

An echocardiogram is basically an ultrasound of your heart. It is incredibly cool, because you get to see your valves working away, which look like little trapdoors opening and closing, or a little weird muppet guy jumping up and down on a tube. At least that's kind of what it looked like to me. There's pretty red and blue colors, there's the sound of your heart beating from different angles, the swishing of blood, and just a really great view from so many sides of your hardest working muscle.

So I'm lying there on the table, watching my heart and its valves doing its thing, and hearing the weird sound of the beat from time to time, and I can't help myself.

"You know, after 5 1/2 years of infertility treatments, it's kind of funny that this is the first time I've seen a heartbeat on an ultrasound. It just happens to be mine."

Luckily I'd already mentioned the adoption process, so it wasn't totally out of left field, but WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? Why couldn't I just think that thought and leave it in my mind, instead of subjecting my dark humor on others? It was just an irony I couldn't leave alone.

It wasn't quite the same, as the transducer is going all over your chest, neck, and upper stomach and not lower where you would suss out a baby, but it a was a funny feeling nonetheless.

Well, funny to me, anyway.

(I also said my greatest fear is to have that hole in the heart thing that Barb.ara Her.shey had in Bea.ches, and the ultrasound technician said if anything was seriously wrong I'd know right then because she'd call the cardiologist in, so I said, "Whew! Plus, I mean, she really looked like shit when she collapsed and was diagnosed, so I guess I'm okay there." Thank goodness she laughed, because I am not a model or anything but I do have color in my face and lips.)

I have the joy of not showering for the next 48 hours as I have a holter monitor to hopefully catch the fluttering so they can see what it is, and I have to wear bigger t-shirts because while the monitor is way smaller than it used to be (like the original iPod with wires on your skin!), it still leaves weird lumpiness under my chest from the wires and it has to be a highnecked shirt kind of situation since there's an electrode fairly high near my collarbone. This is where I am thankful for huge boobs. I can hide quite a bit of this equipment in the space between, which is nice. It just goes a bit lower than the valley of the girls will conceal.

Well, that's my story of the day. I didn't appear to horrify the ultrasound tech too much, and I managed to keep my mouth shut while being hooked up with electrodes around my bra (huzzah for being able to wear a bra with this thing!). I guess if I horrify only one person today it will be a good day.

Monday, August 22, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: That Back To School Slide Show

It's that time of year again, and I sent off my picture(s) for the annual Back to School Staff Slide Show, and try to find something that wasn't already on Facebook and that doesn't make me feel sad about life.

In previous years this has been extremely difficult. I enjoy looking at all the new babies, people with new pregnancies, families out and about -- except it's literally watching the passage of time, the evolution of people's lives, the bellies that are now babies and the babies that are toddlers and so on. It's just a little depressing when you are continuously static in your pictures...unless you count the fact that I am ever so slightly chubbier with every passing year.

It's not just me, either -- I have a friend who is in her late thirties and single, and the slideshow is a parading of weddings and couples and families that show how her pictures are static, too.

Blah blah blah comparison is the thief of joy blah blah, it's more the contrast, the stark difference, between your stasis and everyone else's forward movement and constant change and procreating everywhere that can make a body feel a bit low at what's supposed to be a fun, celebratory kickoff day.

Last year was a lot of fun, because we had been homestudy approved and we spent the summer registering at the BBB baby store, and so my way of sharing this news was this picture:

So much excitement! It could be ANY DAY! (Or it could be a year later and no different!)
WELL. That forward movement sort of stalled out this year and I am missing the next picture in the series (and still haven't bought the stroller).

 I found myself struggling to find a picture, yet again, for the freaking slideshow.

I decided on these, because they are from our vacation (the Massachusetts part) and I think they are both fun and representative, although NARY A BABY TO BE SEEN:

Just sittin' on some rocks on the Atlantic coast (Marblehead, MA)

Just being my dorky self in front of The House of the Seven Gables, in Salem, MA
(Like the vine that is basically a shepherd's hook trying to whisk me away? )
Still us, still vacationing in New England, no baby, no real updates other than that almost-sorta-blind-profile-but-not-quite in July.

At least the goofy one hopefully will get a chuckle and fend off the "why no update?" questions, at least for a little while...

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy! 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Complex Emotions Surrounding Embryo Adoption

After writing yesterday's post, we did indeed have a rather teary Mexican restaurant date night. We talked about it on so many levels...I asked Bryce to read yesterday's post, because I could not read it out loud (as I usually do). It was so interesting to discover the different ways that we process this.

For me, I'm always in it. I never stopped thinking about the embryos when they were sitting in storage, and I haven't stopped thinking about them since. It's a little less present for Bryce, although in talking about it he was certainly emotional (lest you think he's some sort of robot).

Our Snowflakes contact actually sent me a picture of a balloon release in response to the note I sent her with our final notarized paperwork needed to ship them to the couple's clinic. I really can't speak highly enough of our experience with Snowflakes. Every person we have been in contact with has been just so compassionate, so understanding, and so open-minded to our own beliefs. She said that this part of the process is often the biggest hurdle mentally, because there's nothing more that we need to do after this final signature. We become bystanders, instead of an active part of the process. It's all on them now, and it's all about their family potential at this point, not ours.

She's so right. It's the finality that gets me. It's the fact that this part of our life is over.

Non Sequitur Chica sent me a link in a comment to an article that NPR did, on couples struggling with what to do with frozen embryos leftover, sitting in limbo, requiring storage fees or decisions every year, and how difficult that is: After IVF Some Struggle With What to Do With Leftover Embryos. It was an interesting read, and I made the mistake of reading the comments, where things were either taken too seriously or they were not taken seriously at all (a LOT of egg puns). One woman, a former employee in an IVF embryology lab, basically stated that no one wants other people's embryos. That if they'd wanted someone else's genetics, they'd adopt, and that you can't GIVE embryos away.

UM, HELLO? SNOWFLAKES? Snowflakes literally found a match for our embryos before we have had a match for our own infant adoption. From the time that we signed on to the time we got a match was a matter of months, as in less than 6. And now, after getting that call in June about the match, we are in August and the embryos are shipping. So, yeah, we can't GIVE them away, no one wants them, that certainly seems true. (Heavy, heavy sarcasm in case you missed it.)

The other thing about the article that was interesting is that all of the people ACTUALLY CONCEIVED AND HAD BABIES from their other embryos. They had completed their families, and then found themselves in the position of having "extra" embryos.

I feel like if this was my case, my feelings would be a lot less confusing. I would have living, breathing children who come from the same genetics as my embryos, and I would see them as siblings. They would be extra, yes, but they would be more of a direct loss in a way.

For us, we didn't get to complete our family this route. I don't have anything to visualize. I can't even really try. That's left me. We have the same choice -- destroy, donate to science, or donate to another infertile couple -- but for us, these are the only genetic pieces of ourselves we have, albeit fragmented and not together in one entity. These are precious in that way, because they're the only thing left from our journey other than a drawer full of embryo pictures, transfer pictures, ovary ultrasounds, surgical photos. And the ONLY way we'll get to see our little creations become anything. It is a loss, yes, but it is the only way to see if they could ever become anything.

So it's complicated, because this loss is also our gain.

It's that promise-and-pain dichotomy I wrote about yesterday.

We knew that transferring them to me would be a definite end, and strangely enough there weren't options that we could find to donate them for embryonic research, and I have complicated feelings about that anyway. I see these embryos as potential people, these specific embryos (more on this in another post, having so many hopes and dreams wrapped up in these embryos has complicated my feelings on that score, but not so much that it's changed my ideology). Donating to science would be a way of destruction, although with research benefits, and destroying them was just not an option. The only other option other than transferring was to donate/place. Transfer for people in the article seemed a good way for closure, but we hadn't had any success prior, so it felt like a beating of a very dead horse, and a very, very bad idea for me emotionally and physically.

Our feelings are different than the ones I've seen in the media, because I have yet to hear from someone who DIDN'T GET TO COMPLETE THEIR FAMILY and yet had embryos without a place to land. I would have loved to have transferred them, I would have loved to "use them all up." That was always our intent, either for the first or a sibling. It just didn't work out that way. We literally could not get to transfer despite multiple tries at the end.

We talked about all these things (minus the interesting article, which came through the interwebs today), about the finality, about all that's wrapped up in doing this hard for seven years, to feeling just so damn exhausted and cycling through hope and despair so rapidly. Earlier in the process we discovered that the couple decided to go to another clinic that was more friendly to the process in order to accept our embryos, and in the balloon-release email we found out that the clinic is THREE STATES AWAY for them. That was very moving, thinking on how I was so sure nobody would want our embryos and here is this couple who is literally traveling hundreds of miles to accept them. That's hard to wrap your head around, but man does it make us feel like they are the right choice. I hope our embryos are worth it...I hope they succeed where we failed.

It's just so crazy to think on everything that we have gone through -- all the complicated decisions, all the legwork needed for donor gametes one by one and then letting it all go in this way, the best way but definitely a hard way. We've always laughed that our dinnertime conversations about our family building efforts could be ethics classes, but this one takes the cake, I think.

It's just so complicated. I believe that it is absolutely the right decision, it's just hard to make sense of everything when you look at it holistically. To think that this loss of the potential beings we created and failed to sustain is another couple's potential gain and the only way we'll get to know what they could have been...just not with us. And while we are still waiting for our own adoption match to make its way to us. I guess while we had those embryos, albeit living in a superfrozen stasis, we were sort of their parents. And now we're not, not really, and we don't even have a picture of them in their cellular form. We can only hope for the outcome where we get baby pictures, toddler pictures, childhood pictures... what do with those is a topic for another ramble.

Now we have nothing physical out there that's ours, just potential in the ether on both sides -- this couple willing to travel to use what we can provide, and us...just waiting for that match to come through, to be as appealing to an expectant mom as this couple was to us, to hope that we also get the chance to parent, in a hands-on and not conceptual way.

Friday, August 19, 2016

So Many Goodbyes

I am not really sure how to feel right now... definitely not as upset as I was when we had the final bloodwork experience needed to release our embryos, but not super hunky-dory, either.

I am sad, to be perfectly honest. I'd say it surprises me but after the deluge with the bloodwork, I sort of expected it.

As I type this, our notarized release form to send our little embryos off from the cryobank associated with Snowflakes to the clinic where they'll hopefully be transferred to the couple in the Midwest, who will hopefully have way more success with the embryos than we ever did.

It's amazing, how many times we've had to have things notarized on this journey. Almost worth coercing a neighbor into becoming a notary on our behalf, because of all the calling to the bank to see when the notary is in which branch and making sure we're both around during banking hours, which can be surprisingly difficult to finagle. I am glad that this is the last time that we will have to explain exactly what all this stuff about embryos means, when they do due diligence and ask us what we're signing and if we understand it. We have notarized information for what to do with embryos in case we die or divorce, to transfer embryos to another clinic, to transfer embryos to Snowflake's cryobank, and I'm pretty sure there was some notarized stuff related to donor gametes along the way. I feel like we've had to take a trip to the notary at least three times just for Snowflakes alone.

And now it's done, and the embryos are no longer "our embryos" and should ship within the week to the couple they officially belong to--the lovely couple we said yes to and who inexplicably said yes to us in return, even given the risks of embryos with no successful cohorts.

It's a weird sort of goodbye. I told the contracts coordinator in my email that I felt like I should do a balloon release or something, because it feels momentous. I mean, I won't actually do that, because sea turtles will die, but it would be nice if there was some sort of ceremonial thing to do to acknowledge that these tiny potential humans that were ours are now going off to a new life, without us.

Why is it that all ceremonial things are technically littering? Balloon releases, those fire lantern things (one actually landed in our street once from a wedding or funeral or something like that...pretty little fire hazards those are!), releasing some super confused doves into an area they're not familiar with (and are they factory farmed, these doves?), butterfly releases...although I guess butterflies are the least damaging. Everyone needs more butterflies and they're pretty adaptable, right? Maybe I could somehow trap the ones that go to my garden and then let them go again. Seems unnecessary trauma, though.

I guess I just feel at a loss in this moment. Or a loss. Or 8 tiny losses, that are actually tiny hopes that maybe our decision to go through the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption program will really and truly give them the chance I never could. That's a bittersweet thought right there.

I feel like I just keep saying goodbye -- to all the 27 embryos that came before these lucky 8 that get some other uterus to hopefully survive and thrive in. To every piece of the original family building dream that I had once upon a time, where Bryce and I could have (in theory), with some technological help, conceive a baby that looked like either one of us and have a typical experience, as typical as a catheter and sperm washing would make it. My definition of "typical experience" just keeps shifting.

I really just want the experience, the ultimate experience of parenting, which is what we have to hold on to since we've let go of genetics bit by bit and pregnancy altogether. And I want this other couple to have their experience, to get pregnant with these embryos and give the embryos themselves a shot at the experience of being parented and existing as people, a victory made possible because we created these embryos out of love and hope and dreams and science.

And when that outcome happens I'll say goodbye again, to the uncertainty around why we just never could get this whole babymaking thing together, and know for sure that it was my uterus. That will be a tougher day than today, even though it will be pain and promise all wrapped up together again. Pain for me, promise for the embryos. Peace that the decision ended the way we'd hoped. I don't even want to think about the alternative outcome.

So byebye, little guys and gals...I hope you find a home in the Midwest and you stick around for that couple whose profile book I keep open in a tab so I can see their faces and personalities and remind myself that our embryos aren't going into a void, they're going to real people. Really nice people that seem to be very similar to ourselves in many regards.

Goodbye, so many goodbyes. I hope you know that somehow you are still part of the dream that we had, that we wish all the best things for you in life, and wish so badly that we could have been the ones to provide them...but know that you will have a great home with the people who hopefully will give you the chance to be. That is the hope.

Monday, August 15, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: I'm So Not Going to See Bridget Jones' Baby

I love Bridget Jones...the original, both the book and the movie. I have seen that movie, oh, THOUSANDS of times. I can pretty much quote it verbatim. Bridget is my hero, and while I was less enamored with the second one (although still funny and pithy, it just took a turn for the crazypants in Thailand), I consider the original a Christmas movie and put it in the rotation in December. I watch it when I am in a funk and need a good laugh. It just always makes me happy.

Which is why I was horrified when I saw the trailer for the new movie, Bridget Jones' Baby. I heard about it and assumed it was a re-titled version of the third book, which admittedly I haven't read yet, called Mad About the Boy. In the BOOK, Bridget is a 51-year old mom to a young boy and poor Mr. Darcy is no more (as in dead, this is not a spoiler), so she is navigating the world of single motherhood AND trying to learn how to date in a digital world. It sounds more hilarious than sad; I just haven't gotten around to it.

Bridget Jones' Baby looks like utter tripe (my apologies if you love tripe). It has NOTHING to do with the book at all: instead Mr. Darcy is her ex and Patrick Dempsey is a new love interest and whoopsy-daisy she messed around with both of them at times amenable to conception WITHOUT PROTECTION and has landed herself pregnant, I'm guessing in her early forties. Maybe late thirties. Hard to tell in movieland.

It sort of fills me with fury. The whole "who's the daddy" thing is so overused, and Bridget looks sort of like an idiot, although one who tearfully views her scan and says something like "That's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," in a touching moment, but then is also carried, in labor, by both men, because presumably she's so MASSIVE. Ha, ha, Bridget is a fat pregnant lady. Although she looks like she's been dieting and doesn't need her scary stomach-holding in panties popular with grannies the world over, in the scenes before her bump makes an appearance.

Maybe it's just me, maybe I'm just bitter, but it seems pregnancy-as-gag is the WORST way they could have led Bridget. She was the champion of singletons in their thirties, she was a straight-shooter and I so would have enjoyed watching her work through the loss of Mr. Darcy, handling motherhood, and discovering the hilarious pitfalls of online dating and social media. Also, to see our quirky, funny heroine as a FIFTY-ONE YEAR OLD would have been nice... LET BRIDGET AGE!

Like I said, it fills me with fury. And I boycott it. And I think I will go buy Mad About the Boy and see what happens when Bridget grows well into middle age and deals with less idiotic problems than a pregnancy that's basically one big joke. I'm sure it will be hilarious, and poignant. I just hope I never see that stupid trailer for the movie again.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

More Only Child Thoughts

I really enjoyed collecting all of the perspectives on only childhood from friends and acquaintances that together made up this post. It was helpful in exploring my own feelings on having an only child, and sort of validating Bryce's assertions that having an only child from the beginning wasn't such a nutty idea.

It's kind of hard when your ideas of family size don't exactly match. I add it to the list of things that I feel behind on... deciding I was ready for adoption (Bryce was ready before I was), letting go of a phantom second child years and years into the journey (that was Bryce's preference from the start). It doesn't cause tension for us, although I really have struggled with guilt over the adoption readiness piece. If I could have let go of pregnancy earlier, who knows where'd we be now? It's all coulda woulda shoulda, nothing concrete or worth losing sleep over since it DID NOT HAPPEN, but I can't stop those particular wheels from turning.

I feel that my hopes for a family of more than one died when we couldn't transfer anymore. When those 8 embryos became homeless, I felt there was no more chance that we could have two kids. I was initially okay with twins, and then more trepidatious of twins as I knew more and more people who suffered tragic losses of one or both or had incredibly early labors and extended stays in the NICU. I started worrying that I was having a hard enough time getting and staying pregnant with one, so what made me think that I could do two at once? It was appealing for a time, though, because you could have two children in one shot. Or one cycle of shots, har har.

When we moved to adoption initially, we planned to hang on to those embryos as an insurance policy for siblings. We'd adopt, and then look into going back into the clinic since my body would have had a rest. But the further we got from being in the stirrups, the less I wanted to return there. It became this period of time that had very little light in it, and to return to that, with a toddler no less, sounded not only awful for me but logistically, too. Who was going to watch our toddler while I went to appointments? I had a rough time keeping myself together at the end of our journey without anyone really to be responsible for, how on earth would I manage that? I know people do this, but it just seems so much HARDER. And as time went on, we decided on the embryo adoption path instead. That my uterus was officially closed and we would fully commit ourselves to a family created through adoption only.

There are plenty of people who adopt more than one child. I just wasn't sure that we were going to be among them. Did you know that in the last year, my agency actually placed more babies with families who already had a child? Less went to homes that were beginning a family from scratch. I found that so interesting. One big reason why was that it was appealing for the expectant mother to know that her child would definitely have a sibling. We don't advertise that we probably won't adopt again, but we definitely can't promise a sibling.

It's just so hard, adopting one child. We aren't successful yet with one and this uncertainty is just awful -- you have these cycles of optimism and then cycles of complete doubt and fear that this just isn't going to happen, and it's all so out of your control. It's very tiring. Plus, I feel being in the over-forty camp makes things more tiring, and ever so slightly less likely to happen within a certain timeframe. I was talking with my chiropractor the other day, and she was saying, "you know, just one is so tiring when you're older. I love my daughter, and I am so glad we have her, but you are just completely sapped at the end of the day." I do believe the whole "having children keeps you young" to some extent, but I have seen my friends who are parents. It's exhausting. Rewarding and challenging and amazing, but if it's anything like End-Of-Year-Teacher-Tired, hoo boy. I'd like to give all my energy to one, to have a child who is parented energetically, rather than split it at this point.

Also, we were originally open to twins on our Child Interest Grid. This doesn't happen super frequently, but it does happen. Then we created our nursery. Then we took a long hard look at our house. I know that people raise families in tiny apartments in Manhattan, but it seems so tight. Our house seems tight just the two of us, and to add in two babies at once? Yikes. When we updated our grid for other things, we took twins off. And wondered what the hell we would have done had we actually become pregnant with two at once.

It is possible to have a situation where your child's birth mother becomes pregnant again and does not wish to parent. In those cases, the agency likes to keep biological siblings together. So there is an odd chance that this could happen. I know of situations where this has happened, and if that were to occur, we would not say no, barring some wacky other situation coming to pass that would make that difficult. But that is a very, very long shot.

Parenting two children who are adopted but have different birth families is also incredibly complex. PLENTY of families do it, but it comes with added difficulty. What happens if we have a great relationship with the first child's birth family, but the second child's family preferred a more closed relationship? Or isn't as consistent? How do you explain those differences? People do it, but I can't imagine how hard that would be. I feel like that could take sibling rivalry to all new levels, and cause all new kinds of pain when comparing situations, really on either side.

But at the same time, is it selfish for us to want to reduce complexity by having only one child? Are we robbing our adopted child of the experience of having a sibling who 100% gets what that's like? Or is that me fooling myself into thinking that they would band together in this way, as I know of people who had siblings who were adopted and they had more of a strained relationship because they viewed their adoptions very differently?

The fact is, it's unlikely that we will actually seek to adopt more than one baby, and here's why:

 -  Our age is big factor -- I originally wanted to have all my children before I was 30, and obviously that went the way of the dodo (and thank goodness, because they wouldn't have been with Bryce). Parenting after 40 IS different. Not worse, not better, although there are examples to support both, but different. I kind of want to revel in first-time parenthood and not worry about jumping back into this pool of waiting and homestudy visits and paperwork and feeling that weird dichotomy of it-could-be-tomorrow-or-it-could-be-next-year. I bet it's hard to explain to your child that their brother or sister is coming, but who knows when? How does THAT transition go? When you're pregnant it's a slow, gradual, visual transition. It's got to be interesting to work through that with a child when you're adopting a second. Having a second child in my midforties sounds completely exhausting.

 -  Space is a factor. I love our house. We love our house. Our house is adorable, if I do say so myself, but the space is limiting. I am highly jealous of the space in other friends' houses that are bigger, especially newer homes with large, non-terrifying basements. Basements that don't give their husbands concussions on the daily. BUT, if we had one child, we could stay in this house for longer and then move without a ton of financial hardship, because we would have that much more equity and could rebuild our savings without freezing the amount we have to keep in our savings for adoption. We have thought about moving many times, found homes that were wish-list-droolworthy, and every time we have to say, "not now, we can't risk the adoption fund."

 - Another factor is finances. We are fortunate, and I am not complaining by any means. However, we've been locked down with funds for IVF and funds for adoption, and the adoption fund is a large chunk that goes out pretty much all at once and has to be there as long as we're waiting... which makes other things not possible. I want to be out on maternity leave for a while, and that will eat away at what's left of our savings. It will be a while before we can build that back up. We'll be fine, but to then build up another adoption nest egg instead of using that money for quality experiences for our new child? Hard to think on.

 -  Lastly, the death of uncertainty. I WANT TO STOP LIVING IN THIS EFFING LIMBO. I want to live in a life where I'm not waiting for something to happen, for this next part of our lives to begin. I want it to begin already and have all the everyday uncertainties of worrying about my child, not whether or not I will have one. When I do have one, I don't want to restart this cycle for a second. I just don't.

It's complex, right? Part of me is so, so, so jealous of the people who can talk about their family building plans and make them happen. A friend of a friend on facebook made their pregnancy announcement (again complete with ultrasound, ugh), and it was the rhyme, "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage!!!" OH HOLY JEEZUM. Is THAT how that goes? It's not, "And SEVEN YEARS LATER you're still trying to fill that baby carriage!?") I was at an event where this person was, in February, and she was talking about how she was starting to try to become pregnant. And she did. And if she envisions a family with more than one child, I bet that will happen, too. And that's the way it SHOULD be. I have to remind myself that this is what is "normal" in the fertile world. That having babies doesn't involve needles and lighting candles and special massages and surgeries and cycles of hope and despair for the chance to be pregnant. That there are people out there who will live their lives not really knowing what it's like to wonder if their family will turn out the way they dreamed, if a baby will materialize at all, and have to work so damn hard just for the hope that that can come to pass. It's just not their experience.

But it IS mine. And I have to weigh everything for myself, for us, for our family that hopefully gets to be one of three. And I take a little control back when I say, "You know what? I'm HAPPY to have one child. I turn the no-choice-not-really into MY CHOICE. I CHOOSE ONE. I will figure out how to make up for the things they won't have, and parent my one the best I can. But this is MY CHOICE." Really, it's me accepting the choice that is there given all the factors, but by golly, I'm going to claim it as my choice.

Bryce turned out awesome. So many of my friends who are onlys are awesome. It can be done. And we will do it...once we get the chance.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Is One So Bad? Exploring the Only Child Experience

For as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to have two children. One for each hand. One for each parent. The same thing that I had growing up -- a sibling to share things with, to scrap with, a built-in playmate for rainy days.

Bryce has always been okay with having one child, as that is what he experienced -- the idea of a sibling was foreign to him. When asked if he wanted one, he said, "How you can want something when you don't know what it is?" I have heard Bryce's thoughts on being an only child over the course of our courtship, our marriage, our quest to have a child (or two) of our own. He has said that he never remembers being bored. That he was able to entertain himself without a sibling -- he invented games, sometimes with mirrors; he read a lot; he played with his matchbox cars; he loved having a dog, who he considered a sibling of sorts. He had his things and didn't have to share them or feel any sense of competition over things or time or activities. He liked (and still likes) being alone. He was creative and continues to be that way.

There were downsides, too -- he said he had a harder time developing friends because he didn't really feel like he needed them to fill a boredom hole -- he favored computers and was (is) an introvert. Being an introvert isn't a bad thing, but even now Bryce hates playing cooperative games, because he didn't really learn to play them with a sibling or group of friends. He finds them stressful. He felt that he could be hard on himself and frustrated, with no one roughly his age to talk to about difficult stuff like all fell on him to deal with it. There wasn't someone going through the same thing to talk to about it. He also said that as an adult, he now has the sole responsibility for parental concerns as they age -- there's no one to share that responsibility with.

Overall, though, Bryce had an overwhelmingly positive experience as an only child. He said that if he were to gauge his interest in having a sibling on a scale of 1-10, that it would probably be 2-3. He credits being an only child with teaching him how to be bored and resolve that in creative ways, with being independent, with with being a problem-solver...all of which serve him incredibly well as an adult.

I feel like there can be a stigma with "choosing" to have an only child. It's particularly difficult when there really isn't much of a choice -- I would have loved to have had more than one (but no more than two), but circumstances conspired to make that incredibly difficult. If we'd gotten pregnant through IVF and had a baby, maybe two would have seemed manageable. If we'd moved on to adoption earlier, maybe the thought of adopting a second child wouldn't seem so daunting.

The fact is, I'm forty and Bryce is forty-two. It has been utterly exhausting to try to have a family so, so hard and, seven years later, to still not have met that goal. It was exhausting to move from IUI to IVF, even though we were told from the get-go that IVF was our best chance. It was exhausting to move from IVF to donor egg IVF. It was exhausting to move from one clinic to a new clinic and get to know a whole new climate and staff. It was exhausting to realize that donor egg WASN'T the silver bullet and that we would start over with donor sperm. It was exhausting to say goodbye to fertility treatment and the possibility of pregnancy and to move to adoption, even though adoption holds so much promise. And it remains exhausting to be over a year into a wait for adoption, a wait that could resolve itself next week or next year, a sort of insta-baby situation with very little idea of when all this is going to come to a close.

Trying and failing over YEARS to have just one child has been EXHAUSTING. Living in this uncertainty is EXHAUSTING. And so, over the past year or so, I've come to a peaceful place where I am like, I AM OKAY WITH HAVING ONE CHILD. In fact, at this point, I prefer it.

It's not just the financial aspect of adoption, which is definitely a factor. I want to be home for 6 months to a year after our child comes to us, and that sort of compounds the fact that our savings will be virtually wiped out after we settle up with all the adoption-associated fees and costs...making it harder for us to be without my salary for as long as I'd like. To think about then turning around and doing the same thing a couple years later, when I am closer to my mid-forties... it's daunting -- financially and emotionally.

It's also that I think a family of three would be just perfect for us at this point. Earlier in my journey this would make me incredibly angry, because it's a choice made for me. But, I feel that our "decision" is a sound one. And because in the world of infertility, this feeling of being forced into a decision to have one child for a variety of reasons is so difficult, I decided to survey people I know about their experiences as only children, or their experiences parenting only children. It couldn't be all bad, right? I wasn't sure what I'd get, but I thoroughly enjoyed the varied perspectives that did seem to skew more positive than negative. It made me feel a whole lot better.

I thought I'd share their thoughts with you:

- "I didn't have a built-in playmate."
- "I envy people with siblings, though I know from my friends and even my husband that being a sibling doesn't guarantee a close relationship at all." (as an adult)
- "I was an only child and I never knew any different but now as an adult I wish I had sisters/brothers -- like a lot."
- "I didn't go to camp in the summer but most of my friends did, so summers were long and boring and full of lots of whining."
- "I never learned to negotiate or argue."
- "I didn't know what to do with friends' siblings -- do we include them? Shun them? I just didn't know."
- "When I went off to college and had a roommate, I had NO idea how to share a room with someone and I sucked at negotiating."
- "My parents divorced when I was very young. I had a really hard time with the split custody in middle school and hated that I had no one in my situation that I could talk with about it."
- "My dad died when I was 10 and as my mom aged and died recently it was very difficult at times to not have someone to share the feelings and stress with."
- "My mom regrets that I will have to take care of her by myself when the time comes while she shares the burden with five siblings."
- "There were times growing up, especially in preteen and teen years, when I felt a little smothered." (unsure if this was because of being an only, or parental anxiety separate from that)

- "I loved being an only child and wouldn't want it any other way."
- "Being an only child was (and remains) a great experience for me."
- "I loved it."
- "My parents were able to come and support me in all my endeavors. They weren't split between multiple commitments."
- "For me, being an only child did allow my parents to focus on my needs, particularly my education."
- "It's much easier with one child to parent."
- "I got plenty of attention from my parents, and learned how to cope with alone time and quiet time from an early age."
- "My mom gives me her undivided attention always."
- "I never had anyone to compete with for my parents' attention."
- "Competing for your parents' attention lasts forever -- my mom is always available when we need her, but my husband's mom is sometimes already committed to his siblings when we ask her to dinner or to watch our kids."
- "At the end of my parents' lives I had them all to myself and no drama."
- "As a parent to two, it is really hard to split your attention fairly, especially when one is needier. The older child can feel like they aren't wanted anymore and aren't getting the time they need. It's heartbreaking."
- "We were able to travel a lot more as a family because it was a lot less expensive with the three of us."
- "I was able to be signed up for more camps and activities that I wanted to be a part of because they did not have to split funds between multiple children."
- "My parents did always have the resources to provide me with an abundance of experiences and materials -- classes, camps, vacations, art supplies, toys, musical instruments, a used car in high school, a college education, etc."
- "My parents are moving to be closer to us, and if I'd had a brother or a sister then they might have felt that they needed to spend an equal amount of time in another location."
- "I relate to others fine, I just REALLY like my alone time."
- "I never felt deprived and lonely. I played with neighborhood kids and had cousins who, to this day, are more like sisters."
- "I always had plenty of friends, so loneliness was not a problem."
- "There are shortcomings but I have wonderful friends that make a difference."
- "I was never bored."
-  "I think it made me more creative, independent, and possibly more reflective."
- "I ended up teaching myself a lot (how to draw, play guitar, code websites, etc) which was fun."
- "The 'spoiled only child' thing that people worry about does not have to be a thing. My parents taught me the values of empathy and generosity and gratitude and sharing. Even without siblings, I believe it can be done."

Parents of Only Children Say: 
- "It is SO much easier to travel and afford some extras when you have an only child."
- "We can do more and provide more for him because he is an only child (expensive camps, more trips)."
- "Being a parent of an only child is rewarding, wonderful and challenging. I wouldn't change having an only for anything."
- "Sometimes I feel bad that he doesn't have someone to play with by default. It's either us or by himself if he doesn't have a friend over."
- "In the summer it takes effort to arrange playdates for my daughter."
- "I know she is learning to navigate social situations and share at school."
- "People often ask if she is the only one and then give us a sad look when I say she is the only one. I don't want her thinking it is a bad thing."
- "People feel the need to constantly tell me I should have another like it is something they should somehow have a say in."
- "I had this lady who works with me actually yell at me for having only one."
- "As a parent to an only child, I can share that one experiences a lot of prejudices coming our way, mostly along the lines of how selfish one is not to provide siblings for one's child. There are assumptions that this means they are bound to be spoilt brats with no understanding/sensitivity for others."
- "Children are as empathetic, considerate, or as self centered as they are taught to be. These are learned behaviors. With proper guidance, excellent role models, and consistency (as with ALL parenting) only children are no worse off than those with siblings."
- WISE WORDS OF AN ONLY CHILD FRIEND WHO'S NOT A PARENT BUT SAID THIS: "I think with parents of only children, the worry comes from going through everything for the first time with their child. People who have two or three or six kids aren't more relaxed because of their number of extra children. They just have the benefit of having gone through every stage and milestone at least once, so they know what to expect, and worry less, because the other one(s) made it."

Interesting perspectives, right? I had a cousin who told me once, "All that Pinterest stuff? You can TOTALLY DO IT with ONE child. Have a second one and it's SO MUCH HARDER." I also have a friend who has more than two children and once she had her second, she was like... "THEY NEVER NAP AT THE SAME TIME. I will never sleep again..."

I worry that the inverse of that is that people believe that it's "easy" parenting to have one, that you are copping out somehow. I was both shocked and not shocked that people are so very stupid in what comes out of their mouths when it comes to judging parents of onlys. I mean, heaven help the person who implies that I was selfish to have only one. These decisions should not be up for public debate, but I guess that's the joys of motherhood now -- how you have your baby, feed your baby, parent your baby, school your baby, clothe your baby, diaper your baby... it's all up for debate in real life and social media.

For me, I felt like the positives made me feel better and the negatives gave me food for thought. I guess we should get a dog. I am going to need to be vigilant about setting up play dates or joining groups, because my child's cousins are over 18 (my sister's stepsons will be more like uncles than playmates, and Bryce has no siblings) and so many of my friends' kids will be older. I will have to hope for great connections through day care and possible same-ish-age kids moving into the neighborhood. I guess we'll have to really plan out our elder years to try and take some of that burden off our child. Especially since our child will be fairly young when we hit those years.

It was interesting to me how many onlys did not have an only child themselves. I didn't really feel it was my business to ask about that, as how you build your family is your business, but a few said that they swore they'd have more than one child to give their children the sibling experience they missed. That's great when it's a possibility to do that, when your bodies cooperate or you have the funds and energy/youth to adopt more than once. I really do believe that if we'd come to adoption earlier in our thirties instead of the dawn of our forties, maybe we'd feel differently. Maybe we wouldn't feel so tapped in every way.

Even though your childhood experience/parenting experience is largely individual, I did find it interesting that there were so many similar experiences, so many similarities in perspectives both negative and positive. It's definitely given me food for thought as the prospective mother of an only child, and I hope it does the same for you.

Monday, August 8, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: A Fertile Space

Several years ago, two things happened. One, the neighborhood had sewers installed and so the front yards of everyone on my side of the street were ripped up almost halfway towards the house (we have no sidewalks), and two, I put a butterfly garden in since the dirt was already torn up, so no heavy digging necessary.

Literally, I took something that was meant for shit, and was torn to shit, and transformed it into something that could be beautiful and full of life.

Fledgling butterfly garden with a few plants and the butterfly house
That year for my birthday, Bryce got me a ton of plants for the garden, a butterfly house, and the directions for officially having my garden designated as a butterfly habitat (which sadly I still haven't sent in, because it was strangely complicated and involved promising all sorts of things I wasn't sure were enforceable, and I regret this because I really wanted my official little sign out there). It was the best gift.

Since installing the garden, it has grown and grown and now is quite the explosion of butterfly, bee, and hummingbird-friendly plants. Gardening is a form of therapy for me, and it doesn't escape me that it's satisfying to see something that I tend and plant grow into a lush, fertile space, since I can't seem to do that for my own biological microcosm.

Just a tad more grown in, no? The butterfly house sort of got decapitated this year, so it's on the ground under the blueberries. 
This year is special -- I have seen not just the swallowtails of various kinds but monarchs, too, hummingbird couples, and a zillion honeybees thanks to the amazing colony that lives in my neighbor's semi-hollowed-out tree.

Spicebush Swallowtail in my bee balm (technically cheating because this is the backyard, but I see them frequently out front and just didn't get as good a picture...).
And, the best thing of all -- I may not have my official sign, but I am definitely a waystation since I have the ultimate marker that my garden really is a monarch haven, that I am part of their migratory journey from Mexico to California and back. It makes me happy that although our own nursery remains empty, I am providing an excellent home for a little tiny baby monarch.

My new friend, munching on the milkweed pods and (hopefully) avoiding the birds.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Why I Love My Workout Lady

Despite my relative flubbiness, I do actually get a sweat on fairly regularly. I go for long walks a lot, and I do a series of workout tapes. (Yes, fine, DVDs, I can't seem to stop calling them "tapes" even though that's long gone.)

My favorites are by Ellen Barrett. She started at Crunch (that's where one of my favorites, "Super Slim Down" was filmed) and then started her very own studio. She does a lot of pilates/yoga blends sometimes with dance added in, and calls what she does "fusion fitness."

I love her so much.

Despite having titles like "Super Slim Down" and "Skinny Sculpt," her focus is NOT on being as skinny as you can be. She looks like a normal person (albeit a fitness instructor normal person). She focuses a lot on functional fitness, which to her is "having my comfort level be as wide as possible." She aims for long, lean, strong, stretched bodies, but also has modified versions of everything. Even without the modified versions, these workouts don't stress my knees, which is lovely.

Her tapes (argh! DVDs!) are anywhere from 30-45 minutes, and the 30-minute ones are fairly recent, probably spawned from all the Beach Body ones that are 25 minutes or 30 minutes and have an intense workout in a shorter time to appeal to people's busy lives. I only have one of her 30 minute workouts, which is a standing weights thing, and I think I might get another. I love all the lunges and squats and plies, standing work and matwork, sometimes weights and sometimes just body weight training, and the bongos that make up the background music of "Fat Burning Pilates." The bongos crack me up, but they are a nice change from other motivational fitness music choices.

My collection...I love them all but have to laugh during the Yogini Workout because there are some things that maybe I could do sometime in the future if I did it a lot, but most of the time I just crack up and say, "Really, Ellen?" until the next move.

The cat wants to help.

No, this is not one big commercial for Ellen Barrett (even though it might seem that way). I just really love her fitness philosophy. I love that she doesn't yell at me to lose poundage or fit into a smaller size. I love her encouraging, inspiring vibe. She just wants me to be fit, and to "visualize my body from the inside out" at the end of workouts. I love that she's totally geeky and cracks herself up. I love that she makes mistakes every once in a while and doesn't edit them out, doesn't give the illusion of perfection because perfection doesn't exist.

I get all red and disgustingly sweaty when I do these, and I do see results fairly quickly when I do them with regularity. My arms get stronger. My legs more defined. I feel good about my body for a good while afterwards.

I just don't lose a bunch of weight anymore, because, well, I'm 40 and I'm also not willing to drastically cut my diet. I eat reasonably well, but also have Mexican food every Friday, live with someone who loves to bake me gluten free pies on the regular, adore Indian and Thai food, and love butter. Oh, and wine. I eat a boatload of fruits and love when you can get fresh veggies from the farm stands. I do try for reasonable portion sizes despite the deliciousness that I put into my body. But, I probably will never be a skinny person.

I can be a fit person, though, even though it doesn't necessarily look that way thanks to help from PCOS (and my aversion to dieting). This is an aspect of infertility that will haunt me forever. PCOS doesn't stop being a problem when your reproductive quest ends. It's a lifelong condition that makes it really hard to maintain and lose weight (along with other lovely side effects and increased risk for heart attack and stroke, hip hip hooray). It can be very frustrating to put a lot of physical effort in and then realize that the progress made is so much slower (thank you also, middle aged metabolism). It's also incredibly annoying when people assume I don't exercise.

But, I can do something positive for my body, whatever it looks like, and learn to love it as is. To make it stronger and not worry about the socially-driven shape that I cannot achieve. I can do my DVDs and go for walks and aim for that functional fitness that Ellen Barrett preaches. I can be strong and flexible and do my best to be comfortable in the skin I'm in, and that's a beautiful thing.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Tale of Two Houses

I decided this summer to take an extended visit to see my best friend. "Extended" is relative -- when she comes up here she can only stay virtually 24 hours (she has three kids 9 and under), and I usually come for two nights when I go down to see her. This past week I got there around dinnertime on Sunday and stayed through midday Wednesday, THREE WHOLE NIGHTS.

Summer meant I could come during the week, when her kids are at camp and we have time to ourselves without employing babysitters or her husband to stay home (he works crazy hours).

I have written before about how different our households are. How she comes up here and revels in the silence, in the lack of people touching her constantly, in the ability to have 24 hours where she can get decent sleep and read a book before bed without being exhausted. And then I go down there and revel in the beautiful chaos that is a home with three young children constantly making noise and scrapping with each other and needing, needing, needing. I get why she needs respite. I definitely am okay with having fewer children (as if I have a choice) after witnessing the whirling dervish that is three.

This time I felt it was even more stark, the difference between my life and hers. It wasn't a bad thing, it wasn't a bone of contention, it just...was.

Having crazy early mornings with insanely active children jumping on me and begging for "hermit crab time" or Memory or Nature Bingo before camp, and then the hush that settled over the house when they left...only to have that vacuum of sound whoosh open when the door spilled all three children whooping and hollering back into the house at 4:30 or so... it was definitely a contrast. Now that they are older there is that small space between when they leave and come back where the house is quiet and things can get done. I remember sitting on the couch at 4:00, and having my friend say... "Oh, only a little more quiet time left" and then realizing how her life is measured in chaos and moments of quiet where she has to hustle to get done all the things that are impossible when the kids are around, yelling and fighting and needing a zillion hugs or stories read or hermit crabs taken out to race out of their shells or cats tormented by being picked up when they don't want to be touched.

I loved every second of it, although I got to see what happens when someone is beyond cranky and there's screeching and whining and you have to get through it somehow. My friend is an amazing mother.

It's just hard to then go home to the quiet. In some ways it's great -- today I woke up at 8:20, went downstairs for coffee and a gluten free bagel with cream cheese, went out in pajamas and bleary eyes to swap cars with Bryce so he could go to work in his car, and then sat on the couch to read and promptly fell asleep for another hour and half covered in cats. No one needed to be coaxed to get shoes on so they could get going to camp. But no one came and gave me a sticky post-breakfast hug, either.

The contrast between our lives was magnified when we went out a couple times. Once to lunch and then to see Bad Moms, which was funny but I thought Sisters was funnier, and once to lunch with other friends from childhood in our old stomping grounds (where no one lives anymore). At lunch before the movie we ran into the mom of a girl who went to preschool with my friend's youngest, and when we said we were going to see the movie, she turned to me and was like, "Oh, are you a mom?" I pasted a smile on my face and said, "Not yet." She then said, "Oh, don't worry -- we went out with a bunch of moms and my friend who's still working on it and she really enjoyed it, too." Later I wondered if she enjoyed it the way I did -- it was funny, but the mom experience is so outside my own that I knew what they were saying but was clearly not "in the club." It was interesting to have that happen in front of my friend, but I'm not sure if she recognized it as one of a zillion moments where I'm called out as not a mom, not in a mean way, but that so many people are and I'm left out. After the movie, my friend asked me, "Do things like that bother you?" It was an interesting question, and the answer was, "Some things hurt, yeah, but overall it was a funny movie and it didn't whack me over the head too much with MOTHERHOOD IS AWESOME...if anything it was more about how HARD it is." And that's where that conversation ended. I mean, it's everywhere. I can't avoid depictions of motherhood, and motherhood is where I desperately want to be. I am just not part of that experience quite yet, and worry that it's possible that it could elude me completely.

This was demonstrated perfectly by our lunch the next day with two other childhood friends, who I haven't seen in forever and my friend hasn't seen on a regular basis, either. It was amazingly fun to get together. It was just really hard when the conversation turned, again and again, to what everyone's kids are doing over the summer, and school stuff for next year, and family vacations, and how hard it is to have a great family vacation, and how old everyone's kids are, and so on and so on. They did ask me about adoption, and I got to yammer on about that for a little bit, but I have never felt so much an outsider. I could not contribute to 80% of the conversation. All of them had 3, 2, and 4 children, and there I was with none. Years and years of trying with nothing to show for it, sitting with a frozen smile on my face as I tried to commiserate with kindergarten cut off dates and the horrors of PTA executive boards and private school vs public school and what happens when your sweet child starts dating someone else. The kids ranged from going-into-kindergarten to going-into-7th-grade.

It was so hard. It was great to talk with everyone, and the truth is, I knew that the conversation was going to be like that. They are moms. That is life -- your life IS camp and family vacation and kindergarten troubles and who got which teacher. It's such a big part of who you are, of how you spend your time. My friend, on the way back up to her house, said, "Oh no, did we talk about kids too much?" and I was like, "No, that's your lives. That's what you have to talk about."

It's funny, because back at my home, most of my closest friends don't have children. I don't go out for dinner and a movie with my girlfriends and hear all about kid stuff (last pick -- Ghostbusters -- which was AMAZING fun and I'm trying to sway Bryce into taking some time off of GRE studying to go see it with me again). A little, as one friend has two kids, but she is in the minority when we all go out together. Everyone else has none, although for very different reasons.

At my house, I am saddened by my lack of children but I don't feel hit in the face with it constantly. I think if I lived closer to my friend and friends from school, that it would be much, much harder. I would feel much more the outsider.

I loved playing with my friend's children, but I also loved coming home to my quiet house. It still hurts, the contrast between the flurry of kid activity down there and the definitely not-kid-filled home we have up here. I am glad that we are (hopefully) having one child, and not a group of them. I would have liked two, because then they'd have company, and after seeing my friend's kids play with each other I felt a little sad that mine won't have that. But then, Bryce was an only child and he says he wasn't lonely, that he could occupy himself just fine, that he could find friends if he wanted to but was perfectly content doing his own thing. I worry about not having a cohort of people who have kids the same age. Even my friends who have had babies recently are probably going to have toddlers by the time things work out for us. We're going to have to find new people for play group stuff and that sets off not a small amount of anxiety in my chest. My friend said, "Well, you don't know, you could have might adopt again and it won't be so hard with a child at home already." I just can't imagine that. I said, probably a little too vehemently, "I don't think so. I just want to be done with this UNCERTAINTY. I don't want to live in this space anymore, child or no child. It's been YEARS of not-knowing, of this-could-be-it and then it-isn't, and I just want to have a family, have our child, and BE DONE." I know she was being optimistic, but the way everything compounds and the weight of waiting for so, so many years through different processes has really made me take a strong stance -- ONE IS FINE. We will be fortunate to pull off having one child.

The visit was a fun one, a packed-full one, and I really enjoyed my kid-free alone time with my friend as well as being covered in a kid pile and admiring slugs and rocks. I will miss my friend in person, but I will talk to her lots on the phone and before the night was over she already sent me a funny picture of her middle child all wrapped up in the memory foam mattress pad from my pull-out-couch bed like a boy burrito. I was proud of myself, because sometimes I cry on the way home, cry for what I'm missing and the contrast between what I'm leaving and what I'm going home to. But this time I was just happy to go home to Bryce, to have a quiet night of Indian food, chardonnay, reading, and catching up on the past few days over a very sweaty, muggy walk. Our two houses are different, that's for sure, but I'm making peace with the fact that mine will never, ever be quite as full of beautiful chaos as hers is. Which is just fine, actually.